When the campus bookshop at uni was clearing out some old paper and drawing pads, I picked up a pad of Canson’s Mi-Teintes pastel paper. Nearly every online art supply store I visit carries it, so I figured it must be popular – and therefore reasonably good – and when I saw this pad marked down to $5 because the front and back covers were dirty and damaged, I decided it was a good time to try it.
These pads of pastel paper are available in a variety of sizes, from this little A5 pad to A3 and probably bigger (the biggest I have is an A3 but it’s buried at the back of my cupboard under a heap of junk). You can also get different colours, with some pads having all white sheets, some having muted greys and browns and some having pale colours like blues, greens and pinks. Having so many options will appeal to many pastel artists; some subjects are perfectly suited to particular backgrounds, and starting with a coloured background can save a lot of work trying to lay down an even colour; it can also show through the layers of pastel and influence the look of the finished drawing.
The back of each sheet is smooth and flat, like standard paper, but the front has a subtle texture. Some artists prefer to use the smooth back of the paper (I don’t really see the point of this, as you might as well just get any good drawing paper with a smooth surface) while others like the textured side. Personally, I’m on the fence. Sometimes I like how the texture looks showing through my backgrounds, or even on the surface of whatever object I’m drawing, helping to give it a more ‘painterly’ look. Yet sometimes when I want a completely smooth blend, it takes a lot of rubbing gently with my finger to achieve this, when on a smooth surface I could accomplish much of it simply by layering the pastels. The ridges in the paper also make it harder to put in fine details; you could probably get around this by using pastel pencils, but on the whole I feel like this paper is more suited to medium or soft pastels than hard pastels and pastel pencils.
Depending on your subject and drawing style, Canson Mi-Teintes pastel paper may be a good choice for you or a terrible one. I think if you like the texture and enjoy painting loose, expressionist works, you will probably appreciate the effect this paper has on your work. However for work that required fine detail and perfectly smooth layering and blending, a paper with a smoother surface or perhaps with a fine grit (like PastelMat or Colourfix) might be more suitable. I’d recommend at least trying a few sheets of the Mi-Teintes for yourself, as it can have its uses. I will keep using it until I have used up the pads I have, but I think I prefer the sanded surfaces.